Eyeliner on the School Run

Eyeliner on the School Run

Up until just recently I was a commuting working mum. A mum who dropped her kids off with an amazing childminder 4 days a week, hopped on a train and worked in an office with other nice adults. Rather than a freelance, working from home, trying to juggle a jelly, a peeled banana and a nappy with a turd in, working at home mum. Obviously, not technically those particular objects but trying to juggle housework, mumming, actual real life paid design work and this funny old world of blogging.

 Even as I sit at my kitchen table trying to write this while the littlest one naps I can hear him stirring from his sleep MUCH earlier than normal and I am about to lose my precious window of writing. I am being an awful mum, ignoring the noise and hoping he might go back to sleep. Please don’t call social services on me for letting him whinge for 10 minutes, I just really want to write at least 10 sentences. He probably has a massive shit in his nappy and that’s why he is moaning. He’s been in bed for an hour and 48 minutes, which is an acceptable nap time but I was counting on him having at least 2 hours so I could write this.

Any way life as a freelance mama is much harder than I imagined. I am pretty organised, I’ve always been good at managing my time. When I worked in an office and managed a team, I was always good at time management and helping them manage theirs. I have never been a ‘leave it until the last minute and then work really late’ kind of person. I was always on top of stuff so there was never any stress. I really bloody hate stress, stress doesn’t suit me. I’m an arsehole when I’m stressed.

Working at home while trying to manage 3 boys, cooking meals, grocery shopping, keeping my house tidy (and occasionally clean), homework, families, friendships, staring at my phone, exercise, box sets, drinking wine, having fun and sleeping (phew I think that’s it?!) is much, much harder than I thought it would be and my time management is now poor, very poor. Somehow after everything gets done I’m left with approximately 43 minutes to get anything done for myself. Then I just feel pissed off.

But there is one thing that really helps me tackle all of the above and it is getting properly ready every morning. By properly ready I mean shower, hair washed and dried, and make up. I have to wash my hair otherwise I get greasy stringy fringe, which is quite frankly unacceptable. The only exception to this rule is on a Saturday when I have 8am boot-camp. To be honest though, even then I manage a bit of make-up because without concealer and blusher I look like a heroin addict.

I don’t do it for anyone but myself. It makes me feel like I can tackle life. It stops me from teetering on the edge. Over the years I have had a bit of grief about it too. My family were always making digs as to how long it takes me to get ready…. ‘well we will probably be late as Lucy has to do her face’. Can I just categorically state now that it takes me 30 minutes to get ready, shower and hair included. If I’m really stuck for time I can do it in 20. I can hear you saying well you could use that extra half an hour to do something productive? But by getting ready it makes me about 10 times more productive.

As I mentioned before, until recently I have always got ready to go to an office, and it’s the getting ready bit that I miss the most. That and my nice quiet train journey where no-one asks me for anything and I can read a book and gather my thoughts. So, this getting ready for an office each day is part of my routine, but this time I’m getting ready for the school run, playgroup or sitting at my tiny Ikea desk. I still apply that blusher and eyeliner. Without it I don’t feel like me. A lot of mummy bloggers and influencers talk about the power of a bright lip detracting from tired eyes and I’m so in that camp, but for me its eyeliner. I love a bright lip, but it’s not essential to my confidence and sanity. On the school run the other day someone asked me what time I got up as my hair and makeup must take so long. I get up at 7am on school mornings and I think that’s pretty ok isn’t it? When I went back to work after having Jesse my alarm would go off at 5.45 so I could get everything done, and everyone fed and watered. But I did it as that’s what made me capable of managing the day. I needed that 30 minutes of getting ready time.

For me the power of makeup isn’t about vanity, worrying about how you look to others. It’s about how it makes you feel. After I had Charlie and we were in hospital for a while, as the days went on and we both started to feel better I started to put some makeup on again.

It is just the same as your dressing style. Or your choice of footwear. I’ve got many friends who are shorter and always wear a heel. No one questions it, it’s just what they do. If wearing red lipstick to a meeting with your directors makes you feel more confident about presenting then good for you. If wearing eyeliner on the school run makes me feel like I can manage my day better, then good for me. If wearing any makeup makes you feel uncomfortable then that’s fine too. Or if you would prefer an extra half an hour in bed, go for it.

During mental health week, there was a campaign called #howcanihelp and many people were asked to list all the things that kept them going, helped them keep their balance in this crazy world, whether they had mental health problems or not. I listed mine and I totally forgot to put ‘putting my game face on’ We can’t underestimate the power of makeup or belittle it as it seems vain. The benefits it can give to someone’s confidence and mental wellbeing are endless. If you are ever feeling a bit crappy about yourself I can’t recommend a little swipe of a mac lipstick (my fav is tropic tonic if you are interested) or a swish of bobbi brown everlasting gel eyeliner, coffee is my shade on this, black is a bit harsh in my old age 😉 But like I said we are all different.IMG_5644

Check out the chunk

 An attempt to get all three boys in a school run selfie

Teetering on the Edge

Teetering on the Edge

Right so here it is, THE post. The post that I have been building up to. The post that will explain exactly why I wanted to start my blog. I always knew I wanted to write this but I haven’t felt ready and there were, and are, other things that I want to write about that relate back to teetering on the edge. The time is right now for some reason. Mental health is ‘trendy’ right now. Bryony Gordon and ‘Mind over Marathon’ are making it all quite normal to talk about mental well-being. I’ve also been inspired by good old Instagram, with people like @thepsychologymum, @mumologist, @drjessamy, @mrshhayward, @thefashioncraver and @luckythingsblog to name but a few, writing openly and honestly in a positive way, inspiring me. So here it is.

So if you know me, I am a pretty bubbly outgoing kinda gal. I love to have fun and am really social. I’m also a real homebody and secretly quite private, so putting this on paper is quite a big deal really. But someone recently said ‘it’s not about being brave, it’s about releasing the truth’ and this has totally stayed with me. Thank you, Emma, if you are reading this.

Through my teens I would get a black cloud every so often, but coming from a family where you don’t really talk about your emotions, I just thought it was PMT and teenage angst. To be honest it probably was both of those. I would lie on the floor of my room and listen to massive attack as loudly as humanly possible or I would draw some deep, dark and meaningful stuff, like you do when you are a teenager. I would read Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood and Ben Okri thinking what a clever twisted soul I was. Then I hit my twenties, and after having a late termination (I was in denial about being pregnant) when I was 20, the black cloud really became part of my life. Lucky for me, I had an AMAZING friendship group (you know who you are, Mel, Lisa, Jess and Kim) and with a year of counselling and getting wasted with my mates, ALOT, I got through it.

True, bestest friends who got me through dark times

Then through my 20’s I suffered horrendous PMT every so often. I just thought it was the aftermath of getting drunk 3 nights in a row, or I was getting my period. So I just cracked on with life. I met my Hubby at 24, and he must have thought I was a total psycho at times, because I was. I would just go into a black hole, usually when alcohol was involved, I would be completely irrational and at times feel suicidal. (For no. god damn. reason).  I would try and level with myself; I had a flippin great job, great mates and great boyfriend, and we had a brilliant life, but sometimes I would fall down a well that had no way out. In hindsight I wish I had seeked help then, but it just wasn’t talked about. In my head you only had depression if something awful had happened to you. I couldn’t justify how I was feeling. I felt like I was being a fake and people would be cross that I felt that way. So I just carried on.

I then became a mum, it was obviously life affirming and completely changed everything. I had a little life to care for. The black clouds still came but I could bat them away, the minute I saw his little face everything was ok. Even after little sleep or horrendous toddler illness, I could fight it. I teetered on the edge so many times as a new mum, but the joy of my baby always pulled me back.

I then got pregnant with Jesse, my second son. After 2 years of trying, a diagnosis of PCOS and a miscarriage later, I was finally pregnant. I then had a rough pregnancy; morning sickness and bouts of real lowness. But again I just carried on. The only person I talked to was my husband. I just felt like my feelings weren’t valid, I was growing a new life. I was soooo happy to be pregnant, but was feeling so black inside at times. I remember my lovely friend who had just had her third saying to me at the end of my pregnancy ‘you know, you will feel like you again, I promise.’ Would I? Once he was born, I did, the joy pulled me back. I was so happy.

Final week of pregnancy with Jesse and baby Jesse

It wasn’t until I went back to work after 11 months that the black cloud came back with a vengeance. What I used to class as PMT was lasting 3 weeks of the month. I was completely hiding it on the outside, good old bubbly Lucy, always smiling, always there for everyone, always with the banter, but inside I was dying. I felt like a bad mum, a bad wife, a bad daughter and a bad friend. (There’s a post coming on ‘The Guilt’)  I was talking to my hubby a bit about it, but it was actually my boss, who I thought had completely dismissed me after having had 2 babies and only working 4 days a week, who took me for a coffee and asked what was wrong. He asked me if I had post natal depression? That I wasn’t myself. Bloody hell! How did he know? I didn’t have PND but I did have the D.

The other turning point for me was my eldest son. I don’t know if anyone else has this with their first born? But there is an invisible channel between us. However I am feeling, no matter how hard I am hiding it, I can see it in him and his behaviour. So could my husband. When I was low, he would be totally out of sorts. When I was on good form, so was he. So, for him and my husband, I decided to see my GP and it was the best decision ever. I am very lucky as my GP is an advocate in caring for your mental health. He was truly amazing. He didn’t make me feel silly or invalid. When you have depression you are so ashamed of it, well I was. I felt like if I told someone they would somehow belittle how I was feeling. He treated me, told me I was brave, and let me cry all over him. I was so relieved. He told me that some people just don’t produce enough serotonin and its nothing to be ashamed of.

My Beautiful big boy – Bobby

I discovered the joy of exercise too. Martin had always said it would help, but I just hadn’t found the right thing. I started to swim and do circuits. It needed to be outdoors, come rain or shine. The combination of the endorphins and citalopram I started to find my balance and keep it.

We had always wanted 3 children and decided to go for number 3, my husband was worried about my mental well being, but I just thought I can be strong and get through 9 months. Golly gosh I was wrong! It was a very tough 9 months for us all. If you have read my piece for the Mama Tribe you will know I suffered from perinatal depression. I didn’t even know that this existed. I just thought you had to be happy as you were pregnant. I felt naughty as I wanted my baby so badly, and was so pleased to be having him, but that doesn’t make the black cloud go away. Without the medication and the exercise I seriously struggled. It was a trainee midwife, who I had met before, who noticed me drowning and referred me to a maternity support worker (I used to call her the mental midwife). She was lovely and supportive but didn’t make the black cloud go away. I wish I had known of PANDAS then, it would have made such a difference. But her noticing me and how I was feeling really made a huge difference.

edge 8

6 months pregnant – having had a chest infection for 3 weeks. One of my lowest points. I hoped the pink sheets and matching pjs might have helped me. They didn’t!

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36 weeks pregnant with Charlie, days before he was born – even my chin was pregnant

When Charlie was born – I was so happy to have him and get on the road back to being myself again.

Charlie was born and for various reasons, after 3 days, I chose not to breast feed him. I had fed both of my other boys, but with Charlie it just wasn’t right, and one of the main reasons was so that I could get back on the citalopram and get back to being me again. Finding the balance and the consistency. I have it now, a year on. I still teeter on the edge all the time, but I rarely fall. So many things can make me teeter, confidence in my appearance (I’m not vain, I’m human), parenting decisions. Making the right choices for my boys with school, friendships, behaviour etc. Relationship worries, not spending enough ‘nice’ time together. Not getting me time, alone. To read, write or stare at the wall. But I’m in a place now where I can recognise these things. I’m also in a place where I can recognise it in others too. We have to talk about how we are feeling. We cannot be afraid of judgement or criticism. So far on my ‘teetering on the edge’ journey all I’ve encountered is love, support and empathy.

The Mumologist and The Psychology Mum’s campaign called #howcanihelp is a positive way to share how you get through each day as a mum. Whether you have suffered with mental illness or not. Everyone has different ways of getting through each day and it can be the little things that keep you a float. Being aware of them and also reading others is truly inspirational. It can be anything from Pilates to eating a cheeseburger. So if you know anyone who feels like they are teetering on the edge, please share this. And to all the critical Instagram haters, it can be a positive, supportive virtual place if you want it to be.